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The Wizards’ shooting woes come with a silver lining

Washington has been ice-cold from three this season. Could that be reason for optimism?

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

There’s no way to sugarcoat things. The 2021-22 Washington Wizards cannot shoot. It’s been arguably the most glaring weakness that the team has displayed throughout an otherwise pleasant first quarter of the season.

Yes, the Wizards have had a penchant for making threes during crunch time situations. Spencer Dinwiddie and Kyle Kuzma have generated what has felt like a year’s worth of clutch threes already. But that only means the team has shot even worse during the normal ebb and flow of games.

Washington ranks 9th in the NBA in clutch 3PT percentage at 35.3%. That’s softened the blow from the fact that they rank 27th in regular 3PT percentage at a brutal 32.2% clip and 29th in 3PM at just 10.3 per game.

To put that into perspective, the Wizards’ 3PT percentage this season is just decimals better than Russell Westbrook made threes (31.5%) for Washington last season. Having Russ as your shooting benchmark isn’t exactly ideal.

D.C.’s three point defense is ALL CAPS ELITE

But for as bad as they are at converting on threes, the Wizards are even better at preventing them.

Washington has actually made more threes (217) than their opponents (209) through 21 games this season. They’re the only team in the entire NBA whose opponents are converting on less than 10 threes per game. They also force the least number of attempts (30 per game) and rank seventh in opponent’s 3PT percentage (33.1%).

Even if the Wizards’ deep shots haven’t been falling like they’re the Golden State Warriors, they’ve turned nearly every rival into a non-shooting team as well. It’s always a rock fight when you’re facing D.C.

In head-to-head 3PT percentage through 21 games so far, which is basically who shot better from three game by game, the bottom-ranked Wizards are actually 12-9 against the teams they’ve faced.

It’s telling that seven of the team’s eight losses have been during games when opponents shot more accurately from three. In only two wins (Raptors and Pelicans) was Washington outshot from deep and in only one loss (Heat) were they more proficient than the other team.

The long-range silver lining

Perhaps the league-best 3PT prevention won’t hold up entirely. But a 21-game sample size is weighty enough to project that this deep shot defense will remain at least above average.

The positive in all this is that it gives Washington a higher ceiling to reach. How well the Wizards can defend the three ball has virtually nothing to do with how much better they can improve shooting it.

Of the nine Washington players who have attempted at least 10 threes, seven of them are shooting worse than their previous season mark. The only exceptions are Spencer Dinwiddie and, by default, a rookie Corey Kispert, who’s a much better three-point shooter than his team-worst 22.5% clip would have you believe.

Three players in Bradley Beal (27.2%), Davis Bertans (22.4%), and Raul Neto (24.2%) are shooting at rates that would obliterate their career-worst shooting years by a wide margin. It’s hard to imagine things getting any worse than this, right? *knocks on wood*

The battle from three on both sides of the ball has been a clear barometer for on-court success this season. If the Wizards can start shooting them at even just a league-average rate, this team becomes that much more dangerous.